Composers Datebook®

Violinist, conductor and composer Eugene Ysaye


Today we note the birthday of a remarkable composer, conductor and virtuoso violinist: Eugéne Ysaÿe, who was born in Liége, Belgium, on today's date in 1858. After studies with two of the most famous violin composers of his day, Henyrk Wieniawski of Poland and his Belgian compatriot, Henri Vieuxtemps, Ysaÿe soon was touring Europe and Russia as a star performer himself.

In 1886, when the 28-year old Ysaÿe married, the great Belgian composer Cesar Franck presented the young couple with his Violin Sonata in A Major as a wedding present. That same year, Ysaÿe founded a famous string quartet, and in 1893 it was the Ysaÿe Quartet that gave the premiere performance of Claude Debussy's String Quartet, a work its composer dedicated to the ensemble in admiration.

In 1918, Ysaye made his American debut as a conductor with the Cincinnati Symphony, and made such a great impression there that he remained as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony from 1918 to 1922.

As a composer, Ysaye wrote eight concertos and a set of six solo sonatas for the violin. In 1928, at the age of 70, the patriotic Belgian began work on an opera titled "Peter the Miner" to a libretto in his native Walloon language, and was at work on a second opera when he died at the age of 72, in 1931. In 1937, Queen Elizabeth of Belgium inaugurated the annual Eugene Ysaÿe International Prize for promising young violinists.

Music Played in Today's Program

Cesar Franck (1822 - 1890) Violin Sonata in A Itzhak Perlman, violin; Martha Argerich, piano EMI 56815

Eugène Ysaÿe (1858 - 1931) Chant d'hiver Aaron Rosand, violin; Radio Luxembourg Orchestra; Louis de Froment, cond. Vox Box 5102

On This Day


  • 1858 - Belgian composer, violinist and conductor Eugène Ysaÿe, in Liège

  • 1901 - Austrian conductor and composer Fritz Mahler, a nephew of Gustav Mahler, in Vienna; He studied composition with Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern; He emigrated to America in 1936, where he taught at the Juilliard Summer School and conducted the Erie Philharmonic and the Hartford Symphony

  • 1904 - Italian composer Goffredo Petrassi, in Zagarolo (near Rome

  • 1941 - English composer Geoffrey Burgon, in Hambleton, Hampshire

  • 1959 - Scottish composer James MacMillan, in Kilwinning, Ayrshire


  • 1729 - Burial date of German composer and lawyer Johann David Heinichen, age 46, in Dresden

  • 1763 - French flutist and composer Jacques-Martin Hotteterre, age 89, in Paris


  • 1782 - Mozart: opera "The Abduction from the Seraglio," in Vienna at the Burgtheater

  • 1998 - Carol Barnett: "Meeting at Seneca Falls," for soloists, narrator, and chamber ensemble, at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, with Apo Hsu conducting

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®